An Italian company has launched a campaign on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to fund a project that is cultivating crops such as strawberries, basil, lettuce and beans 20ft beneath the surface of the Ligurian Sea.
Ocean Reef Group has installed five biospheres off the country’s northwestern coast, near the town of Noli, as part of an initiative labelled Nemo’s Garden. The company has been experimenting with underwater cultivation for three years – but is now seeking upwards of $30,000 to help it expand the operation from a prototype to a fully industrialised project.
Ocean Reef Group has patented the biosphere technology. © Ocean Reef
A combination of the constant temperature, high levels of carbon dioxide, and natural evaporation that results from the shape of the biospheres has produced the perfect conditions for growing fruits and vegetables – and Ocean Reef is now hoping to apply the concept to crops such as mushrooms. In harvests it has already grown underwater, the group found that the makeup of essential oils, as well as the taste and appearance of the crops, was no different to those grown on land. And, it said, the higher rates of plant growth associated with underwater cultivation would make up for any potential losses of crops.
The site has become a haven for wildlife, including sea horses. © Ocean Reef
Ocean Reef wants to develop the project as a sustainable alternative to existing methods of agriculture, cutting the use of energy and resources and improving cost effectiveness; explore new methods for fresh water creation and reutilisation; and to improve understanding of the possibilities of having an accelerated growth environment, as the biospheres offer a cheaper testing facility than hyperbaric chambers on land.
At the time of writing, the firm had garnered the support of nearly 28 individual backers and generated more than $3,100’s worth of funding, with 24 days of the campaign still to go. Although it has set a target of $30,000 by 14 August, it wants to exceed its goal by as much as possible in order to enhance what it can do with the money.
Luca Gamberini, who is in charge of the family business’ marketing function, said: “It’s been a learning curve. We completely lost the crops four times, but it didn’t really matter because we have such great growth rates.
“In the future, it’ll definitely be something that’s economically sustainable. I see possibilities for developing countries where harsh conditions make it difficult for plants to grow.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019